Desert Empire

‘The Desert Empire’ is a long essay Sibley wrote for Harper’s magazine in 1977, a drought year throughout the American West, and one of the five driest years in the recorded history of Colorado River flows. It is part celebration of the accomplishments that enabled the Colorado River Basin to survive that year on close to a ‘business as usual’ status, part a reflection on the history that led to those achievements, and part a rumination on how more of the same in a heavy growth environment could undermine the whole river enterprise.

In its desperate search for water, the American West meets the limits of the technological ideal.

~ George Sibley

Anyone interested, for whatever reason, in the :study of water in ‘the West will in the end concen-trate on the Colbrado, wildest of rivers, foaming, raging, rushing southward-erratic, headlong, in-congruous in the desert.

~ John McPhee · Encounters with the Archdruid

“THIS IS A STORY about a river, but it is also about the desert. I should begin by admitting that I am no lover of the desert. I find a certain fascination in its strange, disturbing beau-ty; but I am ultimately repelled by the heat, by the dead stillness when it’s still and the spinning dust sentinels when it’s not, but most of all by the dryness…. ”

To read the essay, click here.

Desert Empire

 

 

Contact George Privately

Categories

Recent Posts

  • Romancing the River: The Appropriation Doctrine – and Its Appropriation
    ‘The single biggest roadblock to solving the problem of stabilizing the river is the priority system.’ – Tom Buschatzke, Director of Arizona’s 
 Department of Water Resource   Last post, I laid out some reasons why the water mavens now engaged in mapping out Colorado River management strategies beyond 2026 – the year ‘interim’ management ... Read More
  • Romancing the River: Prior Appropriation and Present Priorities
    ‘Fiddling while Rome burns’ – that’s what the Roman emperor Nero is remembered for, practicing on his fiddle while mobs tore up the city. In Ortega’s memorable phrase: responding to the lack of bread by burning down the bakery. But – ‘fiddling while Rome burns’: I often feel like that’s my life these days. We ... Read More
  • Romancing the River: Thinking Like a River
    Greetings in 2024, which promises to be an interesting year, along the Colorado River and beyond it too. May we come out of it affirmed nationally in our commitment to democratic governance, and improved in our execution of it on our river. Back in the earlier part of the last century, the great conservationist and ... Read More
  • Romancing the River: Sun and Water
    I was planning for this post to be tip-toeing into a conversation about the prior appropriation doctrine, a conversation which we badly need to have throughout the interior West, but which will likely be vigorously, even violently, opposed by those holding senior water rights in every western watershed. But instead of that – I’ve been ... Read More